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Reinforced teleworking checks: how it works

Credit: Belga

Starting from this week, Belgium is stepping up its controls on the teleworking obligation with so-called “flash checks” to reduce people’s mobility and the further spread of the coronavirus as much as possible.

At the end of 2020, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced that “flash checks” – which will see groups of inspectors enter companies to check if everyone physically present on the work floor really has to be there – on teleworking would be carried out in January.

“Working from home is very important in order to limit our movements,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws. “So, I really hope that people do not physically go to work again after the Christmas holidays, unless there is no other option.”

Where will the checks happen?

The checks will take place throughout the entire country this week, and will mainly focus on the service sector in January, according to the federal authorities.

Trade unions and employers’ organisations in that sector have already been warned that checks will be carried out, in the hope that this too will lead to an extra effort, as it is impossible to check everywhere.

Who carries out the checks?

Over 500 labour inspectors currently working for the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (FPS WASO) will be carrying out these controls.

“Checks were already happening, but they are now becoming the absolute focus,” FPS WASO spokesperson Sandy Deseure told De Morgen.

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How will the checks go?

Everyone present on the work floor will be asked for a certificate from their employer, stating that they are physically needed there, according to Deseure.

Employees who do not have a certificate, however, do not risk being fined, as the checks are aimed at the employer. “Employees may only be present if they cannot do their work at home, and if the work is essential for the company to function,” she clarified.

Allowing an employee to come to the office for a day because their children at home are too loud, for example, is not a good reason, according to Deseure, and allowing employees to come to the office for a day a week if they want to is not allowed either.

“That would mean giving employees a choice, but teleworking is no longer a free choice today,” she said. “It is compulsory.”

Will companies violating the rules be fined immediately?

Companies who are caught for the first time do not have to fear immediate closure or fines. The employer usually receives a warning first, with a time limit to get organised properly.

If it concerns repeated violations, persistent refusal or several blatant infringements, administrative fines for the employer can range from €200 to €2,000, and criminal fines from €400 to €4,000, according to SD Worx social secretariat.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times